Variations in psychological disorders, suicidality, and help-seeking behaviour among college students from different academic disciplines

PLoS One. 2022 Dec 30;17(12):e0279618. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0279618. eCollection 2022.


BACKGROUND: Elevated levels of suicidality, ADHD, mental ill-health and substance disorders are reported among college students globally, yet few receive treatment. Some faculties and courses appear to have more at-risk students than others. The current study aimed to determine if students commencing college in different academic disciplines were at a heightened risk for psychopathology, substance use disorders and suicidal behaviour, and examined variations in help-seeking behaviour.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The study utilised data collected from 1,829 first-year undergraduate students as part of the Student Psychological Intervention Trial (SPIT) which commenced in September 2019 across four Ulster University campuses in Northern Ireland and an Institute of Technology, in the North-West of Ireland. The SPIT study is part of the World Mental Health International College Student Initiative (WMH-ICS) which uses the WMH-CIDI to identify 12-month and lifetime disorders.

RESULTS: Students from Life and Health Sciences reported the lowest rates of a range of psychological problems in the year prior to commencing college, while participants studying Arts and Humanities displayed the highest levels (e.g. depression 20.6%; social anxiety 38.8%). However, within faculty variations were found. For example, psychology students reported high rates, while nursing students reported low rates. Variations in help seeking behaviour were also revealed, with male students less likely to seek help.

CONCLUSIONS: Detecting specific cohorts at risk of psychological disorders and suicidality is challenging. This study revealed that some academic disciplines have more vulnerable students than others, with many reluctant to seek help for their problems. It is important for educators to be aware of such issues and for colleges to provide information and support to students at risk. Tailored interventions and prevention strategies may be beneficial to address the needs of students from different disciplines.

PMID:36584170 | PMC:PMC9803302 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0279618


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